By George Markopouliotis
As a citizenship shared by all Europeans, complementing and not replacing national citizenships, EU citizenship embodies shared rights and values as well as the rich diversity of a Union of different nationalities and languages.
Any person who holds the nationality of an EU Member State is also an EU citizen. It is a valuable status which gives citizens many freedoms such as free movement, consular protection, and the right to vote and stand as candidates in municipal and European Parliament elections wherever they live in the European Union.
Ensuring that EU citizenship rights are effective in practice is an important priority for the European Commission and it recently released its latest report on EU citizenship.
According to this report, 87 % of Europeans are aware of their status as EU citizens. Four out of five Europeans cherish the right to free movement that allows them to live, work, study and do business anywhere in the EU. However, a lack of awareness means EU citizens do not fully exercise their right to vote in European and local elections, and many are unaware of their right to consular protection from other Member States’ embassies.
The European Commission is doing its best to promote the rights and the values that come with EU citizenship.
For example, last July, the EU adopted legislation that will cut costs and formalities for citizens who need to present a public document in another EU country. Currently, citizens moving to or living in another EU country often have to obtain a stamp to prove that their public documents (such as a birth, marriage or death certificate) are authentic.
Under the new regulation, this stamp and the bureaucratic procedures linked to it will no longer be required when presenting public documents issued in one EU country to the authorities of another EU country. Member States must put these measures in place before December 2018.
Child protection in cross-border family proceedings is another area where the Commission has taken action.
Cross-border disputes on family matters have increased in the EU in line with the rising number of international families (16 million).
Since 2005, European law facilitates EU judicial cooperation in matrimonial matters and matters of parental responsibility, including custody, access rights and child abduction.
The European Commission recently proposed revised rules to speed up the legal and administrative proceedings and ensure that the child’s best interest is always taken into account.
Looking forward, the European Commission will conduct an EU-wide information and awareness raising campaign on EU citizenship rights and it will safeguard the essence of EU citizenship and its inherent values; more specifically it will produce a report on national schemes granting EU citizenship to investors describing the Commission’s action in this area, current national law and practices, and providing some guidance for Member States.
EU citizenship and the rights it confers lie at the heart of the European Union. We will work hard to empower citizens to know more about their EU rights and use them more easily.
George Markopouliotis is head of the European Commission Representation in Cyprus